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THE DESERT GUARDIAN                   27
they also perform the protective office of preserving them, embalming them and saving them from perishing. There is perhaps no better preservative for the stone monuments made oy man than the warm, dry African sand.
One by one, gently and perhaps reluctantly, the innumerable stars were vanishing, and I knew that my long vigil was soon to reach its end. I had set its term at the hour when one could no longer glimpse the mysterious march of constellations around the incQgo sky, and when dawn would quiver over the country with a rosy light.
The air was chilly, too, and my throat dry and parched.
Once more I regarded steadily this grave stone guardian of ancient secrets, whose figure in the faint starlight was so emblematic of the Silent Watcher of our world. Had I turned a leaf in Egypt's pre-history which had rarely been turned before? Who dares to measure the age of the Sphinx? Once its Atlantean origin was accepted, who could affix a date to it ?
And I saw no reason why such an origin, pictured so briefly in my vision under the stars, should not be accepted. Atlantis was no longer a fiction of Greek philosophers, Egyptian priests and American Indian tribes: individual scientists had collected a hundred proofs of its existence, and more. I saw, too, that when the Sphinx was first carved out of the rock, the surrounding lowlands could not have been covered with sand; for then the rocky escarpment itself, which stands at the foot of a hill whose summit is topped by the Pyramids, would also have been under the sand—a position full of obstacles which would render the work hardly possible. No, it was much more likely that the statue had been cut ere the sands had made their appearance, and when the Sahara was a gigantic sea, beyond which lay the great and tragic island of Atlantis,
The men who had inhabited prehistoric Egypt, who had carved the Sphinx and founded the world's oldest civilization, were men who had made their exodus from Atlantis to settle on this strip of land that bordered the Nile.1 And they had left
1 "All the facts lead to the conclusion that the Egyptians had already made very great progress in the arts of civilization before the age of Menes (first of the Pharaohs), and perhaps before they immigrated into the valley of the Nile/' was the considered opinion of Sir J. G. W/tkinson, one of the best Egyptologists ever produced by English learning.